Exclusive: 30 Minutes with Kevin Smith

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Getting a chance to interview Kevin Smith is one of those moments where you know you aren’t going to have enough time, that is if you know the man at all and have ever heard him speak. Hell, if you have ever seen “An Evening with Kevin Smith” you already know what I am talking about, he told a story about Prince that lasted over 40 minutes and each and every minute of it was entertaining. Considering the fact that I had 30 minutes with the man, when one-on-one interviews are traditionally only limited to 15 minutes or so, you would think I would be ecstatic, but we only got to about 50% of my questions since we went off on so many tangents. It wasn’t until six minutes in that we even got on topic, which is Zack and Miri Make a Porno, opening this Friday, October 31.

I had seen Max Payne that morning so that came up immediately, that moved into W. and the election, then we talked about Red State (his next film, which is a horror of all things), then we got to Zack and Miri. We talked about the MPAA, the rating system, how much pubic hair a female needs to be shown full frontal in a movie, George Carlin’s last live action role in Jersey Girl, Kevin’s screenings of the upcoming flick Watchmen and everything in between.

To say I packed a lot into 30 minutes is an understatement, but I think you will find it is worth the read. Every single word of it.

Enjoy!

Been busy?

Kevin Smith (KS): I have, not as busy as you, I read your little thing, you’re going to see Max Payne this morning — How was it?

It’s what you expect, if it was a better script it wouldn’t be called Max Payne.

KS: Have you ever played the game?

Nope, haven’t, but it looks like it is certainly catering to that audience at least in terms of style and substance. It’s a DVD, unrated, there will probably be tits and whatever…

KS: I couldn’t believe it was coming out already. The dude from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer said he was going to that screening and I was like, “That movie’s happening? Like now, it’s coming out?” For some reason I thought it was next summer…

Well look how fast Stone rushed W.

KS: If I had bet on that I would have lost, I thought there was no way he could hit that date. Not Oliver Stone.

Yeah, and he even came one month earlier than he originally intended.

KS: It worked out for him. There are some people thinking he should have waited five-ten more years but from what I understand it’s a totally coherent flick.

I liked the script a lot better.

KS: You saw it and you read the script?

Saw it last night. I read the script before hand and they axed out all the swearing and it really lost sort of that edge and remained relatively safe.

KS: Why’d they do that?

I think it had to do with reaction to script reviews and people saying Bush doesn’t talk like that.

KS: Well, as far as we know.

Exactly, and the entire thing is perceived…

KS: Yeah, it’s hardly a biopic.

Basically it makes Colin Powell look really good, Bush look like a dummy and his cronies look like the cause of it all with Karl Rove being the problem for the last eight years. It is what it is…

KS: I hear he gets off light, Bush…

Oh yeah, you feel for him in the end, because he looks so bewildered. If you saw a moron doing something important and they just couldn’t do it…

KS: I remember the last election that he was going up against Kerry, watching him stump and give speeches and I was like, he’s not for me, but I understand why people vote for him. He’s down-homesy, he’s folksy, he’s the male version of what Sarah Palin is like now where people are just like she seems like a hockey mom. He totally seemed like a little league dad.

He had the war and people were hoping he would be the one to pull us through it —

KS: Totally, and after September 11th nobody was gonna not re-elect the President. Didn’t matter who it was, everybody wanted stability in that moment.

Watching the film they focus on his memory and his ability to retain what Rove is feeding him and you just start thinking about how they can spin any situation for hours and hours.

KS: It’s probably not the first time we’ve had a puppet president so I don’t know what everyone’s outraged, except he’s done — like Chris Rock said — he’s done so poorly we’re now going to have a black president. [laughing]

So God bless George Bush, he opened the door for Barack Obama man, otherwise who knows if that would have happened.

It’s funny we’re talking about this, because I was going to save this for the end, but since we’re in it all ready, I saw you make a comment about Red State, and I’ve never heard you talk politically —

KS: Yeah, I haven’t. I generally don’t.

A lot of religious talk, Dogma, but you haven’t given any specifics about Red State other than saying it takes place after 9/11 and looking at the interior as opposed to the exterior —

KS: Exactly.

Can you give any more of an idea —

KS: It’s about political and religious fundamentalism, and even governmental fundamentalism, gone amuck. What happens is all those parties concerned take it to the next level.

Sounds odd, classifying it as a horror movie.

KS: I know and there have been people that have read it saying they aren’t sure if it qualifies as a horror movie, but I feel like the subject matter is so horrifying it can’t be anything but a horror movie. What else could it be?

So you’ll get people classifying it as a thriller, whereas you think it’s a horror?

KS: Totally, and I think it’s going to be a tough film to classify once people see it because it takes so many twists and turns and it covers a couple of different genres, none of them comedic. So, I don’t think people will be wrong if people call it a thriller, but that’s not what the movie is completely either.

So it doesn’t sound like we are talking supernatural elements —

KS: Yes and no, it depends on what you believe in terms —

Oh, what you said about religious — ?

KS: Yes, in terms of supernatural elements and in terms of people running around cutting people up, there’s a bit of that as well. It’s a real mish-mash. It’s a real stew. I’ll be curious to see if it works. If it doesn’t at least I gave it a shot.

From what you have said, you’re committed to this. Red State is your next film, but you’ve also talked about financing and how hard that’s going to be.

KS: It’s been tough, not a lot of people want to pony up for it, it’s not a commercial movie by any stretch of the imagination. So, buyers beware and all the buyers have been.

If I classified you as a comedy director I don’t think you’d disagree —

KS: No, not at all.

Zack and Miri, let’s say, does astronomical numbers.

KS: Yes!

That’s not going to help Red State.

KS: Not at all. Particularly like what I have in mind for Red State, it’s not going to help at all, and if they slap “From the director of Zack and Miri” on it, it doesn’t do it any good whatsoever. The highest compliment I think I can be paid on this movie, if people watch it and go like, “I don’t think you made this,” then I’ll feel like right on, then I did my job.

Talking about Red State

KS: Yeah, Zack and Miri, you come out of it going I can totally seeing the guy who made Clerks making that movie, it makes sense.

Before this interview I read as many reviews about the film —

KS: Most of ’em are fucking good. I can’t tell you how surprised and delighted I am by that because I assumed there would be a lot of like, “Well, it’s him doing what he does and now he’s got Seth Rogen in it, that’s the only difference,” but people have set it apart from the other flicks and started going like “Ooo, he’s grown up,” which I can’t quite get my head around that one, but as long as they say nice things…

Yeah, it seems like as long as the verdict is “go see it” you’re cool with it, such as with an early test screening review at Ain’t It Cool News.

KS: That’s it, the guy was like “I laughed a lot and it’s the funniest movie he’s ever made” so I was all for it, but that early review after the first test screening, that dude has a fundamental block with Miri telling Zack he could go ahead in the room. That dude’s never met a real woman in his life. I’ve got many women in my life, including the one I am married to, and not one of them have ever objected to that portrayal. Because they’re like, “We do it all the time, of course we test you.”

One comment that really struck me was in Richard Corliss’ review at Time when he says, “Smith was Judd Apatow before Apatow was cool.”

KS: Yeah.

How does that make you feel?

KS: For me, I don’t know, it’s nice to see someone acknowledging we were doing it. I remember all the early reviews on Knocked Up, I think it was, not so much Virgin, but Knocked Up, people were like “this is a new kind of comedy that mixes sweetness with utter raunch,” and I was like Yeah, that does sound new. I mean, we’d been doing that for fucking years.

So, at a certain point, I was like I guess people were just going to forget, and now, with this flick, everyone seems to want to bring that into the discussion.

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